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The underlying theme of Olivia Sham’s debut recording is the technical development of the pianoforte and how it influenced Liszt’s compositional style – and vice versa. To illustrate this, Sham plays three different instruments: two Erard pianos made in Paris in the 1840s for the earlier works such as the three Études d’exécution transcendante (‘Ricordanza’, ‘Eroica’ and ‘Wilde Jagd’); and a modern Steinway for the later, more delicate pieces, including the Valses oubliées. The ethereal textures of the first Apparition sound truly unearthly on the Erard, while the Bagatelle sans tonalité (1885) sounds oddly earthbound. The net result feels like the soundtrack to a lecture rather than a recital. Oddly, this is underlined by the mixing-up of the textures and not presenting the works chronologically. Avie’s recording cannot disguise the clattery sound of the Erard and is rather two-dimensional.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing